Where can people enjoy a quiet place, wifi, books and newspapers for free? Libraries have always been places – mostly beautiful ones too – where everyone is welcome. In the last decades, their importance as a third place, where people spend time between home (‘first’ place) and work (‘second’ place), has grown.
Third places have become even more vital to people’s wellbeing as homes have also become workspaces for many, and locals have been looking for cosy places to study, work and enjoy culture while their energy bills have reached scary highs.
Libraries reach people in their neighbourhoods and residents trust them. They are important local partners and multipliers for cities to promote progressive ideas and common goals for the future. Recently, they have embraced new community engagement and outreach objectives, including health and wellbeing.
Libraries for health
In Vilnius, public libraries increasingly work with local communities, in particular with children and teens. Young people facing challenges, such as the divorce of their parents, can join discussion groups.
Books and art available on the virtual bibliotherapy and art therapy platform, Atvirumo s@la, help strengthen children’s and families’ emotional health. And community members, who experience critical situations due to various family issues, can access positive parenting programmes using interactive socio-cultural skills.
In Ghent, the main public library, De Krook, brings together several partners, including universities, research labs, and radio studios. Open since 2017, the library was conceived as a place where a wide audience can get in touch with research and where human-driven technology can flourish.
This cooperation, called Comon, focuses on how to make healthcare more understandable to people, a focus that locals selected. They came with nine innovative ideas during a series of workshops held in the library or in neighbourhoods where library staff went with cargo bikes and met them. Students from different curricula then made prototypes responding to each idea, and the library organised ‘experiment cafés’ during which these were tested. One example is Dolox, a watch for pain measurement.
Join the movement
Through such a partnership, the library plays a role in showing the importance of public outreach for research. Municipal libraries are taking on new roles and, as a response, Eurocities has formed an informal group, led by the city of Berlin, offering a platform to share innovative practices developed by public libraries. To join the movement and for more info please contact email@example.com.
For more examples on how local cultural organisations foster healthy and inclusive societies, please read this article.